Sean Pendergast

Four Thoughts on Brian Flores' Historic Lawsuit Against the NFL

Brian Flores is suing the NFL for racist hiring practices.
Brian Flores is suing the NFL for racist hiring practices. Screen grab from YouTube
The date was June 25, 2009. The iconic Farrah Fawcett passed away that morning. Throughout the day, regardless of format, radio stations paid tribute to the pop culture tour de force that was Farrah Fawcett. Then in mid-afternoon, Michael Jackson, perhaps the greatest pop culture icon in the history of man, passed away, too. Farrah Fawcett's death got shoved unceremoniously to the back burner in favor of Jackson tributes galore.

That's exactly what yesterday afternoon felt like. In the morning, Tom Brady, the greatest football icon in NFL history, made his retirement official via a lengthy Instagram post that thanked everybody who ever touched his career (except, curiously, the New England Patriots). It was a great, big Brady fest.

Then, Brian Flores happened. Flores, ironically the defensive coordinator in a couple of Brady's final seasons in New England, filed a possibly groundbreaking lawsuit for racist hiring practices against the NFL on Tuesday afternoon, and Brady's retirement became an afterthought. Life comes at you pretty fast on this news cycle, kids.

For those who missed it, Flores, the recently fired Miami Dolphins head coach who'd interviewed for a handful of NFL head coaching jobs over the last few weeks, including the Texans' vacancy, filed the lawsuit  against the Dolphins, Giants, Broncos, and NFL, accusing the league of racist hiring practices, and the specific teams for treating the Rooney Rule (designed to promote hiring equality) as an annoying checkmark box on the hiring practices list.

Here is the lawsuit, with some of my thoughts on the whole thing down below:
Here are four pertinent thoughts on this possibly ground breaking lawsuit:

Bill Belichick's senior moment might have blown the lid off this whole thing
The trigger moment in this whole ordeal came from, ironically, the greatest head coach of all time not knowing who he was texting. In a senior moment to end all senior moments, Bill Belichick texted his former DC, Flores, to congratulate him on being hired for the Giants' head coaching job. There's just one problem — Flores was three days away from his interview for the job. See below:
Yeah, as it turns out, Belichick should have been texting Buffalo OC Brian Daboll, a white man, his congratulations. Belichick's senior moment led to the heartbreaking text exchange above with Flores, where he finds out he's being used as a Roney Rule pawn by the Giants from Belichick. These texts above are just a heartbreaking read. To summarize, the Giants were readying themselves to interview Flores even after they'd decided Daboll would get the job, so that they could satisfy the league's race-based hiring practice checklist. This is the foundation of Flores' lawsuit.

John Elway was hungover for a Flores interview
From there, the lawsuit contains some anecdotes that are simultaneously infuriating and hilarious. In 2019, when Flores was on the market in the hiring cycle that eventually led to him landing in Miami, he interviewed for the Broncos' vacancy that eventually went to Vic Fangio, who was fired weeks ago, like Flores. According to the lawsuit, then-GM John Elway and other Broncos' executives showed up to their interview with Flores hungover and an hour late. The funny thing is that the Broncos put out a tweet yesterday afternoon, since deleted, denying the punctuality claim, but saying nothing about the claim that their execs had been imbibing a little too much the night before.

Stephen Ross might have to sell the Dolphins
Then there is Flores' former employer, the Dolphins. There is some really damning stuff in here about Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross. First, Flores alleges that Ross offered him $100,000 for every time the Dolphins LOST in 2019. The idea behind that is that Ross actually wanted to the Dolphins to lose so they could pick first in the 2020 draft. Flores instead went on to win an unexpectedly high five games in 2019. Additionally, after the 2019 season, Flores alleges that Ross asked him to join him for a meeting with an unnamed "prominent" NFL quarterback on his yacht. Said quarterback was under contract to another NFL team and Ross wanted Flores to try to recruit him to the Dolphins. Flores refused, and from that day forth, Flores believes he was treated like a second class citizen by upper management. These accusations are pretty damning for Ross — attempting to pay his head coach to lose games and tampering with other team's quarterbacks, in my opinion, enough to have the league explore forcing Ross to sell the team.

How does this affect the Houston Texans?
The Texans are preparing to introduce a head coach in the very near future. The finalists are Flores, Philadelphia DC Jonathan Gannon, and journeyman QB Josh McCown. McCown is believed to be the favorite. Here's where it gets interesting. How do you announce Josh McCown, a white man with zero coaching experience at any level, to replace David Culley, a black man fired after one season, over Flores, a black man imminently more qualified than McCown to coach an NFL team, just hours after this lawsuit was filed? You're practically putting a spotlight on the exact dynamic Flores is litigating against. I wonder if Flores' lawsuit makes the Texans think twice about hiring Gannon, a white head coach who is, at the very least, qualified on paper to be an NFL head coach, Indirectly, this lawsuit just made the next few days way more interesting around here.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast